Ever Tried “Platforming” Your Cannabis?

Can we please, agree on one thing before we start: what THC does to our brains is entirely different from what alcohol does to them. It would be absurd to discuss ways drinking can improve your work product. While many famous drunks have produced much greatness, they all did that in spite of the alcohol that sustained them. I’ll produce my own lab data momentarily. Jazz was invented by musicians who knew that about alcohol — and yet invented one of the quintessential American idioms with more than a little THC in their blood. The THC helped where the alcohol couldn’t have — because the two chemicals work so differently inside our brains.

I have been hammered. I have been tipsy. I have been somewhere in between and sat down to write, thinking I was producing genius. I wasn’t. That happened one hundred percent of the time. By the same tokin’, I sit down to work every single day AFTER having lit up a bowl of my favorite sativa. People have paid me good money for that work — and been happy as hell with it, too. I could not have produces any of that work if I’d been drinking. Have I made my point yet?

Though I never set out to, I now use cannabis literally from the start of my day to the end of it. I have never been happier. I’ve never been more productive either.

One of the first things I learned — as my total ignorance waned — was that a thing called “sativas” exist and that they’re very different from indicas. Just as these two variations on cannabis grow a little differently (indicas tend to be stocky and bushlike while sativas tend to grow taller and get stalker, its leaves a lighter shade of green than indicas), so, too do their effects differ. Not completely, but significantly.

One of the things that separates the cannabis experience from the alcohol experience (in my personal experience) is the fact that it can be heady in the first place. Virtually all cannabis stokes my creativity. I can be well into my third bedtime indica hit (my night time regimen is three bowls to get my brain to slow the hell down) with sleep tugging at me when, suddenly, I’ll get a burst of creative energy. Words will spew onto a pad of paper (by then I’ve turned off the computer and, frankly, I like spewing in long hand). Fifteen minutes at the most and the spigot will suddenly run dry. Sleep will beckon and this time there’ll be no putting it off.

When I go back in the morning, nine times out of ten, it’s not only useable but, aside from typing it up? It’s ready to rock. That’s because cannabis doesn’t cloud the mind, it focuses it. And, it turns out, each sativa strain focuses your mind in its own particular way. The gold standard is Durban Poison, a landrace sativa from South Africa. The DP in your local dispensaries may differ in the exact amount of THC each has; that’s a product of the grower’s art. But the DP will have the same effect on your brain regardless: a distinct sense of focus. Some strains — Tangie Cookies for instance — produces a more energized focus. Thoughts don’t necessarily wait for you to “think them”. Tangie Cookie and The Fork (another racy sativa) can get you thinking a handful of thoughts all at the same time. For me? That’s the best ride in the amusement park.

While one can easily think about multiple things at the same time with a hit of Durban Poison, that would be you and not the DP driving the process — a subtle distinction to be sure but, inside one’s mind, a clear one. So, what happens if one, say, combines DP with a more vigorous sativa like The Fork? That’s when platforming happens: you get the benefit of both strains at the same time. To a large degree, growers already do this when they create new strains that combine the attributes of the parent strains. That process is painstaking and takes years. The same effect can be achieved just by opening two different strains and blending them before smoking them.

This morning, I put together an ass-kicking cannabis cocktail containing Lemon Sour Diesel, Pineapple Thai and Platinum Green Crack.. Smoked separately, the Lemon Sour Diesel would have produced a mellow focus, the Pineapple Thai a more energized high and the PGC a full-on wake-n-bake eye-opening. The resulting mix produced a sensational, productive buzz that lasted about an hour and a half. I wrote almost relentlessly and published it earlier today.

Cannabis continues to surprise me. It’s not one thing; never was. It’s a variety of things. It can make you super productive or deliver truly restful sleep (far more restful than any sleep you could get on alcohol or OTC sleep meds). It puts a remarkable amount of control into the user’s hands — and whatever piece they use to get that THC into their brains.

How Our DNA Echoes Across Time

For better or worse, we see our parents in our own faces. Or our grandparents in our children.

It’s proof the theory of genetics is on to something. We’re aware of the physical attributes that pass to us from previous generations. Why, they’re as plain as the noses on our faces. Other things pass down to us also. Less apparent but, often, more significant. Genetic diseases like Tay Sachs or sickle cell anemia pass silently from Jewish generation to Jewish generation and Black generation to Black generation. But, other subtle things pass down to us, too. Good things. Being the father of two young adults, I can see both my DNA’s past and I can glimpse into its future. We’ve learned that our DNA is more malleable than first thought. Data says that traumatic experiences like the Holocaust actually changes the experience-survivor’s DNA. So, experience (and the “memory” of it) can ride along from generation to generation. It turns out, ideas can, too. I am bearing witness in real time to an “idea” that stated itself plainly in one generation and — without being stated — has carried itself down through four succeeding generations virtually intact. It’s like a game of “telephone” where the message arrived unscathed.

For reference, I’m 62. Born in 1959. My father was born in 1929. I couldn’t tell you what year his father or mother were born for various reasons but I can tell you where. In the case of my father’s maternal grandfather (his mother’s father), Havis Cohen came from Vilnius, Lithuania sometime during the Great Migration in the 1890’s. I don’t know what Havis did for a living. I know he had a wife and three children. One became my grandmother Elinor, the mother of my father Jerel. After Havis and his family arrived, everyone hurried to become official Americans. There wasn’t much point to being here if you weren’t a citizen; my tribe learned that quickly.

But, while everyone around Havis became “American” as quickly as possible, Havis demurred. He was happy to be in America, but he was in no hurry to BE an American. As I can’t ask Havis directly WHY he didn’t want to become an American like the rest of his family, I’ll have to deduce it more from what my DNA tells me. Havis’ explanation was “I’m a citizen of the world”. Spoken like a true socialist which, I suspect, he was. Havis had three children — my grandmother Elinor, my aunt Jean and their brother Herman. Herman was a lawyer but never made much money because his passion was defending poor people. Herman also never married though he had a female “friend” from time to time. I suspect Herman was gay and the female friend was a beard. I know Herman was in fact a socialist because my father, who adored the man, told me he was.

As I said, my father adored his socialist uncle Herman. I think of it as a “genetic predisposition”.

My father was a general surgeon. He grew up in an upper middle class Jewish household in an upper middle class Jewish neighborhood in West Philly in the 1930’s. His father Simon was a dermatologist (Elinor did well for herself). Simon was a genuinely happy man without an ounce of ambition as far as I know. Elinor ruled their roost. Any ideas that became core values in that family came from her. Quick side note about my father’s family. Polio was a scourge when my dad was a kid. The search was on for a vaccine; the Salk vaccine was still a ways away. One of my grandparents’ social circle had created a vaccine and was testing it. Fearing polio more than the unknown, my grandmother insisted my father and his brother Horace get that vaccine. The live virus inside the vaccine their social friend was using gave both my father and his brother polio. In the current environment, that might sound like a cry against vaccines; it is not. My father went on to become a physician who religiously vaccinated himself and had his children vaccinated.

The idea of vaccination stands. That particular vaccine shouldn’t have. We need to differentiate.

Despite the cruel twist of fate that GAVE him a terrible disease (rather than him just “catching it” from someone else like most people did), my dad never displayed an ounce of anger or resentment toward what happened. Make no mistake: polio caused him physical pain every day of his life. When post-polio syndrome struck later in life, it ratcheted up the pain quotient exponentially. He didn’t keep the pain a secret, but he didn’t roll in it either. It just “was”. Like the polio that caused it, pain did not define my dad. I believe this, too, was Havis’ spirit. In my dad’s case, it saved his sanity.

Havis, it seems, has informed almost every blog post I’ve written here. I have never been happy sitting inside the box. Frankly, I’m not good at it. If the world does something one way, that makes me suspicious. Sure, sure — there might be a good reason, but, what if there was another, BETTER way — that required a bit of imagination and daring but would pay off massively.

My son’s about to graduate from UC Santa Cruz, a poli-sci major with a minor in a thing called “History Of Consciousness”. Tristan’s high school friends from the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles were a pretty outside-the-box group but even they couldn’t grasp what my son’s major was. Yet, my son just told us, with graduation approaching, that he loved his college experience and believe he found the perfect balance between partying and studying. He also found himself at Santa Cruz. Found his purpose.

Needless to say, my son won’t be dropping from college into any sort of 9-5 world. Even if that world was as prevalent now as it was when I graduated from college in 1981, Tristan wouldn’t be joining it — as I didn’t. As I couldn’t have and he (because of me and our genes) can’t.

Over the course of my working life, I’ve held a few “real jobs” on a temp basis. Knowing I was only visiting the 9-to-5 world and not moving in permanently saved my sanity. But, I loved visiting it. It’s like how I feel about weather. One of the great advantages to living in LA is that we only marginally have seasons. I mean, we DO. February and August are nothing alike. But it doesn’t snow here except very, VERY rarely. I could (in theory — which means traffic permitting) ski in the morning and surf in the very same afternoon. I can drive to seasons like I can drive to “entertainment”.

I had kids relatively late in life compared to most of my contemporaries and schoolmates. I have the luxury of added perspective. As I stare at that photo of Havis, I can’t help wondering which of the ideas floating around behind his eyes now float around behind mine. And which float behind my son’s and daughter’s.

Sampling Cicadas Wouldn’t Be Hard – Hell, I’ve Tried CHICKEN SUSHI!*

I just saw on CNN how ~25% of Americans would consider sampling a cicada. That’s surprising. I’d have thought fewer Americans would be open to breaking down such a huge cultural barrier. If Americans had grown up eating bugs — as some other cultures do — we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Food and culture are inextricably linked. Americans like their protein big. We think “cow” or “pig” not “insect”. In time though, even a food we used to revile can become a luxury item. Take lobsters. Today, they’re expensive. They’re a treat for the wealthy. But, when Europeans first started arriving in North America, lobsters were so plentiful that “piles up to two feet high would wash ashore in Massachusetts Bay Colony.” They were used as fertilizer and to feed the poor. I mean, look at the damned things. They’re called “cockroaches of the sea” for a reason. While lobsters are only distantly related to cockroaches, they have enough in common to have made eating them that very first time likely an act of desperation or starvation. If you’d never eaten a lobster before that first time, would you really look at one and think “I gotta eat that!”?

Americans aren’t as obsessed with food’s freshness as other cultures are. The whole point of wet markets regardless of how we might feel about what’s being sold at them is the obvious freshness of the ingredients being sold. Pangolin lovers love their pangolin meat as fresh as they can get it. It’s why we love farmer’s markets. We love the idea that the food we’re eating today hung on a tree yesterday. Or walked around. We don’t need to know how it walked around or where, just that it did — somewhere in the abstract. I wonder how many of us would turn vegan overnight if we had to go out and kill our own food.

I still remember the first time I tried sushi — at a place in NYC in 1982. The whole idea was still incredibly novel; there weren’t more than a handful of sushi restaurants in all of America. Americans did not eat raw fish. That first piece of tuna stuck on my tongue and went to war with my gag reflex. Jump forward a year and I’m happily snarfing it down, eyeing the more adventurous parts of the sushi menu. I’m an adventurous eater by and large. My culinary mind’s open to a lot of things — to at least try once.

A few years ago, I did some consulting for Electronic Arts. I got hired by their studio in Vancouver, BC to help their game designers think more like storytellers. This particular studio was run by an innovative guy named Nilo Rodis. For about a year and a half, I worked on various projects with various teams. One cool project involved a completely reactive environment where the game player really could impact everything. If they blew up the room they were in, that room was going to really blow up — killing their character. Another project I worked on was a fighting game that originated in their Tokyo studio.

For about six months, I scripted the game and helped revise the story and characters in Vancouver while the game’s designers — in Tokyo — did their thing. Finally the project was nearly finished. EA sent me to Tokyo for a week. Nilo felt some face time with each other would speed us through the last phases of our work. And that’s pretty much what happened. We had a good week together.

When I arrived in Tokyo, Ken, my host at EA (and my boss — Ken is Japanese-Canadian) asked me, as we’d be dining together a lot during the week, if I had any likes or dislikes. The last thing Ken wanted to do was put us at a restaurant where there was nothing on the menu a fussy American could eat. Embarrassment is anathema to Japanese people. “I will eat whatever you eat,” I told Ken. “Great!” said Ken, pleased.

Over the course of the week, we ate in some very cool places. Remember the restaurant in Food where that huge fight scene happens? That’s a real place. I was taken there my first night. The sushi was awesome. The shootout was even better. Every meal was fantastic as far as I was concerned; I love Asian cuisine above all others, no matter which one. The week having been a raging success, Ken wanted to take the whole office out for a meal on my last night in Tokyo in order to celebrate.

Being a special occasion, Ken chose a restaurant close to the office that the whole group liked. In particular, they liked the restaurant’s specialty. They didn’t tell me what that specialty was. It was chicken sashimi.

We all arrive at the restaurant more or less together, remove our shoes of course, and follow our host to the private room reserved for us where we sit low to the ground on tatami mats. Food lands on the table immediately. Various innocuous Japanese starters. Ken — I’m sitting next to him — leans close and tells me that they’re about to serve the restaurant’s specialty. It’s why they came here; everyone in the office loves it! I look to the table as small dishes of what looks like pale yellow sushi are set down in front of everyone.

They all look jazzed. Some have already started eating as my sushi lands in front of me. Ken can hardly wait to tell me what a treat I’m in for: “It’s chicken sashimi,” he says as if that would explain everything.

I’m absolutely certain he’s kidding. What’s the course after that? Pork sushi? But Ken’s already got his chicken sashimi chop sticked and heading for his mouth. I glance at the table. My co-workers for the week are all eating it and loving it. They brought me here to share this thing they love with me, the gai-jin (outsider) they’ve been working with all week — the gai-jin they liked enough to bring here.

My next thought — okay, it’s Japan. They have all those wacky game shows. This one’s called “Prank The Gai-Jin” and I’m the gai-jin they’re pranking. While they all eat chicken sashimi made of marzipan, I’ve been served the real deal and the point is to fool me, the gai-jin, into eating it. Sensing my natural reluctance, Ken tells me quietly that the chickens are all grown on the property — no factory chickens. They’re grown here, hand-slaughtered here, processed here. That’s how we’ll know its safe to eat. I nod but not because the explanation satisfies.

As more and more of their eyes look to me — awaiting my reaction to the chicken sashimii, I begin to realize I have no choice here. I mean, sure — I could tell them they’re all crazy but I still have to work with these good people. I don’t want to insult them especially when I told them I’d eat anything they ate. I’ve set everyone up for failure… except I don’t have to “fail” everyone if I just… eat… the damned… sashimi.

I pick it up with my chopsticks and bring it first to my nose. This bird may have been raised like a prince but it still smells like raw chicken. Now I’m aware of Ken’s eager expression. His eyebrows, arching, are telling me: “Go on!”

Some of the others dipped theirs in soy sauce first. That will be my salvation. I practically swirl the sashimi in the little dish of soy sauce and, in one deft motion, pop it into my mouth. Immediately the “smell” of raw chicken hits the back of my throat. It takes everything I’ve got to keep my gag reflex in check. Instead, I chew — slowly — trying, with my tongue, to push the thing toward the back of my throat so I can just swallow it. And I smile all the way. “Mmmmmm-hmmmmm,” I say trying to will the thing down my gullet.

Still it clings to the inside of my mouth — like it wants to be there as long as possible. Like it’s found its new home. Chewing, even softly, releases more raw chicken essence into my mouth. I feel like I’ve gone for a swim in a lake filled with raw chicken. It’s like I never introduced it to the soy sauce.

Finally it slides down, more or less whole, the taste of raw chicken lingering.

My smile now approximates a death ricktus but my hosts buy it. More importantly, my boss beside me buys it. And, nodding happily at having found a convert, he starts on what will be my bigger problem than “Piece Of Chicken Sashimi #1”. Ken has piece number two between his chopsticks and heading for his mouth. So’s everyone else at the table. Again, I’m going to bring up the rear.

Let me tell ya, hard as the first piece of chicken sashimi was for this gai-jin to get down, “Chicken Sashimi Piece #2” was harder by a couple of multitudes. This time, I knew what was coming. So, in addition to the soy sauce coating my piece of chicken sashimi, now I also had dread.

That second piece of chicken sashimi has come to symbolize a certain kind of moment in my life — one where you know from personal experience how badly the shot that’s coming at you is going to hurt. The mere fact that shot number two exists makes shot number two worse.

There’s a terrific piece in a recent New Yorker about disgusting food. Writer Jiayang Fan captures both the squeamishness other peoples’ strange food can cause and the sense of communion food makes one feel toward one’s tribe (especially when your tribe’s food seems stranger to more people than yours does to them). One of the great points Fan makes is how adaptable our palettes can be if required. As Cervantes put it in Don Quixote, “Hunger makes the best sauce in the world”.

That means that given the proper incentive, and a little time, I could learn to love chicken sashimi.

*Sashimi actually but “sushi” is a funnier word.